NCF Nation: Myles Willis

Unlikely Boston College stuns No. 9 USC

September, 14, 2014
9/14/14
2:20
AM ET


CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- This is not the way the No. 9 team in the nation is supposed to lose. This is not the way the Glamour Guys from USC go down. This is not the team that should be beating the Trojans, with their Hollywood profile and grand tradition.

The USC locker room is filled with four- and five-star recruits. And then there’s the Boston College locker room, a sweatier, and -- early Sunday morning -- happier version of the Island of Misfit Toys.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy is a fifth-year refugee from Florida. Two of the running backs, Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, haven’t made it to 5-foot-10 yet, and both of them tower over 5-6 freshman Sherman Alston, whose 54-yard misdirection touchdown run late in the first half gave the Eagles a 20-17 lead they never lost.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesThough he finished with just 54 yards passing, Boston College signal-caller Tyler Murphy had 191 rushing yards and a touchdown vs. USC.
“We’re probably not your ideal top college football program as far as looks,” said Murphy, who started six games at Florida before transferring after last season. “Whatever it takes to win. Whether the guys are 5-2 or 7-8, we’ll find a place for them and we’ll find what they excel at and we’ll get them the ball.”

Murphy rushed for 191 yards, including a 66-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, on only 13 carries, to lead the Eagles over the Trojans, 37-31. Boston College hadn’t beaten a ranked team in six seasons or a top-10 team in a decade.

Boston College outgained USC on the ground 452 yards to 20. The Trojans haven't given up that much on the ground since 1977. The running game worked because the Eagles' offensive line, one of only two in the nation that starts five graduate students, won the battle on the line of scrimmage. And the running game worked because Murphy’s sleight of hand on the zone-read kept a fast Trojans defense moving in the wrong direction.

If you are looking for a mental picture of how Boston College won the game after spotting USC a 17-6 lead, think of a Trojans defender, sprawled on the ground, or turning the wrong way, lurching in vain toward an Eagles ball carrier. Suffice it to say it will be a long video session this week for USC cornerback Chris Hawkins. And he’s not the only one.

The Eagles' defense sacked Cody Kessler five times and refused to afford him time to throw downfield. Kessler threw for 317 yards, but completed only one pass longer than 20 yards. Linebacker Josh Keyes made five-and-a-half of his eight tackles behind the line.

USC hoped it could come east, get ahead early and rest its starters. When you travel with 54 available scholarship players -- and that includes linebacker Hayes Pullard, who sat out the first half after a targeting penalty last week -- you look to ease the load when you can. When the Trojans flipped field position on the Eagles early in the game and started two possessions inside the BC 40-yard line, they grabbed a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

On the other side of the ball, The Eagles went three-and-out on their first three possessions and gained a net total of minus-2 yards. By the time they moved their total yardage into the plus column, the Eagles trailed 10-0.

“We grouped up together on the sideline and we said, ‘That ends now. We’ve got to start playing up to our potential,’ I think we turned the tide then,” center Andy Gallik said.

[+] EnlargeBoston College Eagles fans
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsDespite an early 17-6 deficit, Boston College stormed back to upset USC. The Eagles' fans stormed the field after the win.
On the Eagles' next snap, a first-and-10 at the BC 22, Willis got a big hole in the left side of the line, and then used great downfield blocks to race 52 yards to the USC 26. The Eagles scored six plays later.

“I thought we played our best football early in the game,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Our execution was good. But for whatever reason, we lost it. And that’s the part I have to figure out. They hit the one long run and things started to go the other direction on us.”

All upsets are emotional for the winners, but this one left a warm feeling throughout Alumni Stadium. Before the game, the parents of Welles Crowther, a Boston College lacrosse player who died a hero in the South Tower of the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, were introduced.

After the game, Eagle coach Steve Addazio gave them a game ball.

“We talked a lot about Welles Crowther,” Addazio said after the game. “We talked a lot about who he was and what it takes to be a BC man. Our guys really dug deep on this.”

Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball player whose fight against ALS prompted the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised more than $100 million to fight the disease, attended the game and was shown on the video boards at halftime, to the delight of the crowd of 41,632.

Football teams don’t live on emotion. They live on execution, and if that’s fueled by emotion, all the better. This Boston College team is a motley crew. But on Saturday night, the Eagles didn’t play that way. They looked like five-star recruits, every one of them. Ask the five-star guys they beat.
In an era when the spread has become synonymous with college football offense, Pitt and Boston College present a throwback to a different era.

Dare we say, the Big East era?

The two might be facing each other for the first time as ACC members tonight in Chestnut Hill, but their offenses mirror the history and tradition of both programs. Though they have adopted some spread influences, both offenses seek to pound the ball first behind a dominant offensive line.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
Ed WolfsteinSteve Addazio and Boston College will face a similar run-first offense tonight when Pitt comes to town.
That has been a hallmark at both Boston College and Pittsburgh. Steve Addazio and Paul Chryst have worked to establish that calling card once again. The teams rank 1-2 in the ACC in rushing after rolling up the yards against weaker opponents to open the season.

The Panthers have James Conner doing the damage, and BC counters with mobile quarterback Tyler Murphy and a rotation of backs to replace the departed Andre Williams.

"I always say, 'Some people run it, some people know how to run it. (Chryst) knows how to run it," Addazio said this week. "So we know that this will be a real line of scrimmage game, a real physical game.

"I love it. I had four great years in the old Big East when all these teams traditionally played each other. They were such kind of black-and-blue games and just physical, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Between the two, Pitt had the more impressive opening-week performance. Though it is hard to read too much into games against lower-level competition, the Panthers dominated their opponent in a way many have not seen in years. Last season, they struggled to put away Old Dominion and New Mexico. In 2012, they lost to Youngstown State. In 2011, they nearly lost to Maine.

So you see why a 62-0 victory against Delaware made some people wonder whether Pitt truly is a dark horse contender in the Coastal.

"We wanted to come out and start the year off strong," Pitt cornerback Reggie Mitchell said. "Our whole thing this year is turning this program around. We really want to get Pitt back into the discussion with some of the top programs in the country. It felt good coming out and getting a good win."

Conner had 153 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and Pitt amassed 409 total yards on the ground. It was the Panthers' highest single-game rushing total since they had 444 yards in a 37-7 win against Army in 1976, when Tony Dorsett was still in the backfield.

For the first time in a long time, the Pitt offensive line looked dominant. The Panthers opened up rushing lanes and did not yield a sack.

BC, meanwhile, had 338 yards rushing in a 30-7 win against UMass. But it was Murphy who led the way with 118 yards rushing, becoming the first BC quarterback in school history to run for 100 yards in a game. Not even Doug Flutie did that. Running backs Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis received the majority of the other reps, combining for 144 yards rushing.

BC is not as much of a two-back power team as it was last season with Williams, a Heisman finalist with more than 2,000 yards rushing. Newer elements have been incorporated with a more mobile quarterback in Murphy. That is one key difference between BC and Pitt. The Panthers do not have a mobile quarterback, they will rely on in their run game.

"We don't have the one guy that we're going to hand the ball right now 40 times a game to, so we're going to be a little more diverse in our run-game approach," Addazio said. "We've got to have an execution offense where we have the ability to sustain long drives, you know, because we're not going to be able to get as much in chunks. So it's a little bit different right now. We're still evolving."

Still, the goal is to run the ball and run it well no matter the formation.

On both sides.

ACC fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
8/26/14
10:00
AM ET
The college football season is finally ready to kick off. No doubt all the time we’ve spent studying depth charts and devouring news will be rendered meaningless by September’s end, but that won’t stop us from making a few bold predictions about what’s to come in 2014. If we get half of them right, we’ll call it a success.

1. Jameis Winston will post better numbers -- but won’t win the Heisman.

Much has been made of the depletion of Winston’s receiving corps, but losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw won’t spell doom for the Florida State QB. In fact, Winston struggled at times last year when getting too greedy down the field, and a renewed emphasis on a shorter passing game could up his numbers. When throwing to RBs or TEs last year, Winston completed 79 percent of his throws and averaged 11.6 yards per attempt, with 11 of his 86 passes going for touchdowns. Add the likelihood he’ll play more fourth quarters this season, and his numbers could well go up in 2014 -- but, of course, winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies is no easy task, and neither Winston nor coach Jimbo Fisher has ever shown much interest in chasing individual awards.

[+] EnlargeWill Gardner
AP Photo/Garry JonesUnder coach Bobby Petrino, Will Gardner has a chance to flourish as Louisville's starting QB.
2. Louisville’s Will Gardner will be the ACC’s second-best quarterback.

It’s telling that what could’ve been one of the most discussed QB vacancies in the conference was actually among the least interesting this offseason. Coach Bobby Petrino waited until Sunday to make it official, but Gardner was the obvious choice since the spring. Then there’s this: In nine years as a head coach, Petrino’s starting QBs have averaged 63 percent completions, 8.8 yards per attempt, 21 TDs and 8 interceptions -- stats that would’ve rivaled any QB in the league last year, save Winston and Tajh Boyd.

3. Virginia Tech wins 10 again.

The Hokies won at least 10 games in each of their first eight seasons in the ACC, but that streak ended in 2012 and the team is just 10-10 against Power Five conference foes in the past two years. But coach Frank Beamer is giving his young talent a chance to shine, the Week 2 date with Ohio State suddenly looks a lot more winnable and the rest of the schedule shapes up nicely for the Hokies. The offense needs to get a lot better to be a legit College Football Playoff contender, but Virginia Tech will at least be in the conversation.

4. Virginia goes bowling.

The schedule makes this a tough sell. Ten of Virginia’s 12 opponents played in a bowl game last year, and there may not be a single easy win on the slate. But there’s talent in Charlottesville, including 19 four- or five-star recruits inked in the past four years. That’s more than Louisville (16) and just one fewer than Virginia Tech (20). That talent has to translate to wins eventually, right? It’ll take some upsets, but the Hoos will get to six wins.

5. Clemson is a running team.

With Boyd and Sammy Watkins stealing the bulk of the headlines the past three years, Clemson’s passing game got a lot of credit for the team’s success. But the Tigers actually ranked in the top three in the ACC in rushing attempts in each of those three seasons. Now with a new QB and significant turnover at receiver, the passing game is a question, but Dabo Swinney loves his tailbacks. Don’t be surprised if freshman Wayne Gallman tops 1,000 yards -- something a Clemson tailback has done each of the past three seasons.

6. Young runners make a big impact.

Gallman won’t be the only rookie runner to make noise in 2014. The ACC has some impressive veterans in Duke Johnson, Karlos Williams, Kevin Parks and Dominique Brown, but there are plenty of fresh faces eager to make an impact, too. Virginia Tech’s Marshawn Williams, North Carolina’s Elijah Hood and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could join Gallman as freshman sensations, while sophomores like T.J. Logan, James Conner, Myles Willis, Matt Dayes and Taquan Mizzell could all have big seasons, too.

7. Stacy Coley catches a TD from three different QBs.

If there was a more settled QB situation at Miami, Coley might be a niche pick for Heisman honors as one of the game’s most explosive players. Unfortunately, it could be a revolving door at QB for the Canes. Freshman Brad Kaaya gets first crack, and the hope is that Ryan Williams will return from an ACL injury sooner than later. Don’t be surprised if Jake Heaps or Kevin Olsen gets a shot to start at some point, too. Coley will make them all look better, but he’d benefit from some stability at QB.

8. Jamison Crowder sets the standard.

Crowder had 30 more targets last season than any other ACC receiver, and now Duke is without its second-best pass-catcher in Braxton Deaver. That makes Crowder an even more integral part of the Blue Devils’ passing game, and it means he should cruise past former teammate Conner Vernon’s ACC record for receiving yards. Crowder is just 1,152 yards short entering the season.

9. Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett look good.

Boston College and NC State will both be starting QBs who transferred from Florida, and both have a chance to put up solid numbers. In fact, we're predicting both Murphy and Brissett post better stats this season than Jeff Driskel, the man who kept them both on the bench in Gainesville.

10. The Coastal champ will be ...

Is there really any answer here that would feel remotely safe? Heck, Georgia Tech could win the division or miss out on a bowl game. Anything seems possible. But since it’s prediction time, we’ll ante up, just so you can remind us how wrong we were in December. So, let’s say ... Virginia Tech.


» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Boston College Eagles:

Key returners: RB Myles Willis, WR Josh Bordner, LG Bobby Vardaro, C Andy Gallik, RG Harris Williams, DT Mehdi Abdesmad, LB Steven Daniels, LB Josh Keyes, CB Manuel Asprilla, CB Bryce Jones, S Dominique Williams

Key losses: QB Chase Rettig, RB Andre Williams, WR Alex Amidon, LT Matt Patchan, RT Ian White, DE Kasim Edebali, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Steele Divitto, K/P Nate Freese

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 5 vs. Pitt, Sept. 13 vs. USC, Nov. 1 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 22 at Florida State, Nov. 29 vs. Syracuse

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsSecond-year Boston College coach Steve Addazio is looking to build on a seven-win season in 2013.
Projected win percentage: 37.9 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 5 wins

Instant impact newcomer: Florida transfer Tyler Murphy is the front-runner to start at quarterback, having been recruited to Gainesville back when Eagles coach Steve Addazio was an assistant there. Murphy started six games last year for the Gators, completing 60.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions, adding 61 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

High point from 2013: Pick any Andre Williams highlight and you'll find it easy to understand how the previously unsung running back bullied his way to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Williams rushed for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting. His 166 yards and two touchdowns in a Nov. 2 upset of Virginia Tech sparked a four-game winning streak for BC, helping the Eagles get to a bowl in Year 1 under Addazio.

Low point from 2013: A two-game slide to finish the season at 7-6 diminished some of the glow that had come from such a surprising run during BC's four-game winning streak earlier. The Eagles lost Williams in the regular-season finale at rival Syracuse, and lost the game 34-31 on a touchdown pass with six seconds left. Then Arizona routed BC 42-19 in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Murphy proves to be an efficient dual-threat quarterback, adding a dynamic to BC's offense that wasn't there last year. Willis leads a running back committee that, running behind a veteran line, is able to collectively make up for much of the production that went out the door when Williams left. A strong secondary offsets a mostly untested defensive front, and BC continues its ascent under Addazio, winning eight games and pulling several more upsets along the way.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: The offense struggles to find its identity without the machine-like Williams pushing it forward. Murphy and a green receiving corps have trouble meshing, the defense lacks punch up front and the Eagles fall back to a three- or four-win season, which is what many thought would happen last season.

They said it: "Really, the interest level now is about winning those games. It's really not about being close; that's not really what we're striving for here. Year 1 was about winning the opener, it was about getting bowl eligible. Now I think as the program moves on in Year 2, you want to get to Charlotte, and that's the next goal on the program's docket right now, is to get to Charlotte." -- Addazio, on BC's respectable 48-34 loss last season to eventual national champion Florida State
Setting up spring in the ACC Atlantic.

Boston College

Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Big shoes to fill: Steve Addazio helped BC make huge strides in 2013, but the task of keeping the momentum going gets much harder without star running back and Heisman finalist Andre Williams, who rushed for an NCAA-best 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns. Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis will attempt to fill the vacancy this spring, and both have potential. Willis averaged nearly 6 yards per carry as Williams’ primary backup last year. The real intrigue might wait until fall, however, when four freshmen running backs arrive on campus.
  • Murphy makes the move: It’s an open competition at quarterback after Chase Rettig’s departure, but there’s no question the most intriguing player in the race is Florida transfer Tyler Murphy. The fifth-year senior worked with Addazio at Florida, and he’ll open the spring competing with redshirt freshman James Walsh and early enrollee Darius Wade. That’s a deep enough bench that BC didn’t worry about moving Josh Bordner, last year’s backup, to tight end. With both of last year’s starting tackles gone, too, Murphy’s experience could be even more important in determining the outcome of the QB battle.
  • Restocking the LBs: Even at its low points in recent years, Boston College managed to churn out plenty of talented linebackers, but the position gets a massive overhaul this year. First-team All-ACC star Kevin Pierre-Louis (108 tackles in 2013) is gone, as is Steele Divitto (112 tackles). That leaves junior Steven Daniels (88 tackles, 5 sacks) as the lone returning starter. Josh Keyes adds some experience, but it’ll be a group in transition this spring.
Clemson

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Replacing Boyd: The talk of Clemson’s spring camp will no doubt surround the quarterbacks, as senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and early enrollee Deshaun Watson vie for the job. Stoudt’s experience makes him the early favorite, but it’s Watson, a dual-threat QB with immense talent, who could steal the show. Coach Dabo Swinney has already lauded Watson as perhaps the most talented quarterback Clemson has signed, so all eyes will be on the freshman to see if he can back up all that hype with a strong spring.
  • Skill-position shuffling: If the QB battle is the headliner, there are plenty of significant sideshows on offense this spring. Clemson waved goodbye to receivers Sammy Watkins (1,464 yards, 12 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (828 yards, 7 TDs) and tailback Roderick McDowell (1,025 yards, 5 TDs). That means a massive overhaul on offense, where there’s no clear-cut bell cow at running back (Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard return as potential options) and the receiving corps will be looking for some new top targets.
  • Dominance up front: On offense for Clemson, there’s plenty of concern for what the Tigers lost. On defense, however, the excitement is all about what they’re bringing back. Clemson’s defensive line, in particular, could be one of the nation’s best. When All-American Vic Beasley announced his return for his senior season, the Tigers knew they could have something special. Add sophomore lineman Shaq Lawson and senior Stephone Anthony at linebacker and Clemson has all the makings of a dominant pass rush.
Florida State

Spring start: March 19

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The running backs: After leading FSU in rushing three straight years, Devonta Freeman is gone. So, too, is James Wilder Jr. But the Seminoles enter spring with a quartet of intriguing options to replace their departed stars, led by Karlos Williams (730 yards, 11 TDs in 2013) and Dalvin Cook (No. 21 on the 2013 ESPN300). Mario Pender, who missed last year with academic issues, also figures to be in the mix.
  • The defensive front: There are a wealth of question marks here, both in terms of personnel and scheme. With Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones gone, there are plenty of jobs up for grabs. The development of Mario Edwards Jr., Eddie Goldman and Terrance Smith will be key, but with Charles Kelly taking over the defense, it’s also still a bit unclear how much the scheme will deviate from what Jeremy Pruitt ran with so much success in 2013.
  • Jameis Winston’s swing: A year ago, the big question was who would win the QB battle. Now, Winston’s got a Heisman Trophy and will be a favorite to win it again in 2014. So the intrigue surrounding the FSU star QB is more on the baseball field, where once again, he’ll be splitting time this spring. Perhaps the bigger question is how the rest of the QB depth chart shakes out, with Sean Maguire the elder statesman and John Franklin III looking to make his move.
Louisville

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • Bobby’s back: After a seven-year hiatus that included an abrupt departure from the Atlanta Falcons and a damaging scandal at Arkansas, Bobby Petrino is back in charge at Louisville insisting he’s a changed man. Fans will be watching closely to see if he has changed his stripes away from the field, but also whether he can rekindle the same offensive fireworks he delivered in his first stint with the Cardinals.
  • Replacing Bridgewater: It’s an open QB battle, and for Petrino, it’s among the first chances he’ll have to see the players vying to replace departed star Teddy Bridgewater in action. Sophomore Will Gardner is perhaps the favorite, but he has just 12 career pass attempts. Redshirt freshman Kyle Bolin is close behind, while Reggie Bonnafon is set to arrive in the fall.
  • New look on D: Louisville finished the 2013 season ranked second nationally in scoring defense, trailing only national champion Florida State. But this spring, things will look a bit different for the Cardinals, as Todd Grantham takes over as the new defensive coordinator after being lured from Georgia. Grantham figures to bring a 3-4 scheme to Louisville, which will certainly shake things up a bit. Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin missing the spring with a shoulder injury only clouds the situation further.
NC State

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Brissett takes the reins: The sting of last year’s winless ACC season was barely in the rearview mirror before coach Dave Doeren named Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett his new starting quarterback. Brissett spent last year on the sideline, but apparently Doeren saw enough during practice to comfortably wave goodbye to Pete Thomas, who announced his transfer. There will be ample spotlight on Brissett this spring as he tries to revive the underperforming NC State passing game.
  • The new faces: If 2013 was about cleaning house, this spring begins the far more difficult project of rebuilding. For NC State, that means plenty of new faces, including a whopping seven early enrollees headlined by safety Germain Pratt. While there are ample holes for Doeren to fill in Year 2, these incoming freshmen could certainly push for starting jobs and bring an influx of depth that the Wolfpack sorely missed last year.
  • Shoring up the lines: NC State’s 2014 signing class included 11 offensive and defensive linemen, and that’s just the start of the overhaul at the line of scrimmage. Last season, the Wolfpack allowed the second most sacks in the ACC (35) on offense while its defensive front recorded the fewest sacks in the conference (20). That’s a formula for disaster, and Doeren understands NC State must get much better in the trenches. Brissett’s arrival at QB could help, but the bottom line is NC State needs to see improvement on both sides of the line, and it needs to start this spring.
Syracuse

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Hunt’s next step: 2013 was a roller coaster season for Terrel Hunt. He lost the QB battle in fall camp, stepped in as starter after two weeks and was dominant, struggled badly through the midsection of the season, then closed strong with back-to-back come-from-behind wins. Now that he has experience, it will be interesting this spring to see how much he’s progressed. The talent is there, and spring practice should give Hunt a chance to refine it a bit more.
  • The defensive front: Syracuse finished its first ACC season ranked fourth in rushing defense and third in sacks despite myriad personnel issues entering the year, but more questions remain as the Orange look toward 2014. With star lineman Jay Bromley and veteran linebacker Marquis Spruill gone, the Orange are looking to fill sizable holes. Robert Welsh figures to be the anchor of the Syracuse pass rush, and the Orange could benefit from the return of Donnie Simmons, who missed 2013 with a knee injury.
  • Secondary concerns: Syracuse got a chance to learn what life was like without top cover corner Keon Lyn after the senior fractured his kneecap late last year, but while Brandon Reddish did an admirable job as his replacement, a whole new set of questions crops up in the secondary this spring. Syracuse figures to have openings at both corner and safety, and while Julian Whigham, Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir offer options, there’s a lot to be decided on the practice field this spring.
Wake Forest

Spring start: March 25

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Clawson’s early impact: It’s been 14 years since Wake Forest opened a spring camp with someone other than Jim Grobe calling the shots, so there’s no question this will be an intriguing few weeks in Winston-Salem. Dave Clawson takes over after leading Bowling Green to a MAC championship, and he inherits a major rebuilding job. First up for the coach will likely be creating an offensive identity -- something Grobe couldn’t do in 2013.
  • Identifying some offense: If 2013 was an offensive slog for Wake Forest, 2014 threatens to be much, much worse. As bad as things got at times last year, the Deacons at least had veterans to rely on. This season, Wake’s leading passer (Tanner Price), rusher (Josh Harris), receiver (Michael Campanaro) and top tight end (Spencer Bishop) are all gone. On the plus side, plenty of younger players saw action in 2013. The job this spring is to figure out who can take a big step forward entering the 2014 campaign.
  • The defensive scheme: Wake appears to be moving away from the 3-4 that was a hallmark of recent seasons, as new coordinator Mike Elko tries to maximize the talent remaining on the roster. Without veteran lineman Nikita Whitlock, Wake’s defensive front will have a far different look in 2014, and this spring will largely be about Elko identifying playmakers and tweaking his system to fit their skill sets.

ACC recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
7:00
AM ET
ESPN RecruitingNation has signing day covered. Follow ESPNU’s coverage, chat with analysts and get breaking news on our Signing Day Live page beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET. For more on what to expect on signing day, check out the ACC conference breakdown Insider.

Bold prediction: Virginia Tech will climb back toward the top of the conference after signing a strong 2013 class.

Boston College
Biggest need: Playmakers at running back.
Biggest recruit: Three-star athlete Myles Willis will make the transition from high school option quarterback to running back for Steve Addazio’s spread offense.

Clemson
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: While the Tigers’ chances at four-star prospect Montravius Adams are slipping, there are some quality recruits on board, including ESPN 150 defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko.

Duke
Biggest need: Defensive backs for the 4-2-5 package.
Biggest recruit: Three-star cornerback Evrett Edwards should be able to come in and play early.

Florida State
Biggest need: Offensive linemen and front-seven depth.
Biggest recruit: Florida State lost ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson a week ago and has been frantically trying to get him to recommit.

Georgia Tech
Biggest need: Team speed.
Biggest recruit: Several options here, but three-star wide receiver Ricky Jeune should find a spot on the field quickly.

Maryland
Biggest need: Playmakers and depth.
Biggest recruit: Junior college wide receiver Deon Long should be able to line up across from Stefon Diggs and give the Terps another major vertical threat.

Miami
Biggest need: Run-stopping defenders.
Biggest recruit: Five-star prospect Matthew Thomas is the most coveted prospect in the eyes of Hurricanes fans, but four-star defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick fits an even bigger need.

North Carolina
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: At the top of the class are two ESPN 150 prospects in cornerback Brian Walker and defensive tackle Greg Webb. Both will get early looks.

North Carolina State
Biggest need: Athletes for spread offense.
Biggest recruit: Three-star wide receiver Johnathan Alston leads a very good class of skill players.

Pittsburgh
Biggest need: Speed on offense.
Biggest recruit: Four-star offensive lineman Dorian Johnson is one of the best in the nation.

Syracuse
Biggest need: Quality depth on defense.
Biggest recruit: Junior college linebacker Luke Arciniega has the potential to be a big-time contributor in the fall.

Virginia
Biggest need: Defensive backs.
Biggest recruit: ESPN 150 running back Taquan Mizzell and four-star defensive back Tim Harris are two players to watch early.

Virginia Tech
Biggest need: Team speed on defense.
Biggest recruit: ESPN 150 prospect Kendall Fuller leads one of Frank Beamer’s best classes.

Wake Forest
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: Four-star linebacker Lance Virgile is the sort of physical presence Wake Forest’s defense will need in the future.

SPONSORED HEADLINES